In the past couple of days there have been some stories in the media about NOAA's expedition last year to locate the remains of the whaling fleet that was lost in unusual ice conditions near Wainwright in September 1871. Here's a brief write-up from NOAA:
I thought it would be interesting to see if the 20th Century Reanalysis (which actually extends back to 1851) shows any hint of unusual weather conditions that could have created unusual pack ice close to the Chukchi Sea coast that September. A Wikipedia article claims that "a stationary high, parked over northeast Siberia, reversed the normal wind pattern and pushed the pack ice toward the Alaskan coast"; I haven't yet examined other sources to see if there is good evidence for this, but it stands to reason that something like this probably happened.
The series of maps below shows the 20th Century Reanalysis sea-level pressure anomaly (departure from normal) for 4 consecutive weeks beginning with August 18-24, 1871. The reanalysis shows lower than normal pressure in the Bering Sea, and a tendency for high pressure over Alaska - especially in the first week - but there is no evidence of a pressure pattern that would tend to drive ice into the coast near Wainwright.
The maps below show the 1000mb vector wind anomaly, which is the vector wind's departure from normal. Again there is no evidence of unusual winds directed towards the Alaskan coast, and in fact the 1st and 4th weeks show the very reverse. Unfortunately all this means is that the 20th Century Reanalysis doesn't appear to explain how the ice conditions became so severe; the reanalysis could be wrong, or there might be another explanation for the ice. Given the presumably very sparse observational data back in 1871, it seems difficult to imagine that the reanalysis could have any real accuracy for this part of the world back then; but it was worth a look, I think.